ATP TENNIS: The Dubai Duty-Free Championships kick off on Monday and welcome the best tennis players from all over the globe. The city lights always inspire legendary matches, and we preview the tournament below, taking a look at the initial favourites for victory.
Winning this tournament in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2020, Novak Djokovic is no stranger to triumphant victories in the desert heat and will once again go into the tournament as the firm favourite.
Not much of an introduction is needed for Djokovic. The world number one has just matched Rafael Nadal’s record for total Grand Slams with a victory in Australia and has won two of the last four major tournaments. Despite his age, it doesn’t look like his tennis ability has weened in the slightest and he continues to dominate every other player in the world when playing at his best.
He is, of course, the most likely to triumph here and he probably will, but Djokovic is known for sporadic drops in form, before quickly returning to his world-dominating best. Will it happen here? There is no way of telling but fresh from a Grand Slam win in Australia, there is every chance he may take his foot off the gas.
The way Andy Murray has played in the last few months, there is no surprise that he is one of our favourites. Murray, for more than one reason, should no longer be a professional tennis player or at least not one competing at the highest level, but the hardy Scotsman continues to defy nature and his metal hip and looks to be a real contender in Dubai.
Showing why he is the revered player he is with back-to-back five-set wins at the Australian Open, Murray has the never say die attitude in bags and will no doubt be keen to highlight his fighting spirit on the elite stage once again against the best players in the world.
His season since the Australian Open has gone very well, with the 35-year-old winning every game since he was knocked out in Melbourne. Most recently, he has beaten Alexander Zverev and Alexandre Muller to advance to the semi finals of the Doha Open, coming into form at the perfect time to challenge in Dubai.
There is a fair chance that Murray can make it to the final and if he does without meeting Djokovic on his way, there is no reason why he can’t beat the Serb in a final once again. Keep your eye on Murray at this one.
Daniil Medvedev is another world-class player that can beat any player in the world on his day, but that suffers from unexpected drops in form that see him knocked out of tournaments much earlier than anticipated.
At the recent Australian Open, Medvedev was eliminated in the third round despite being one of the favourites for much of the build-up. Since then, he has bounced back, winning all seven of his matches against some high-quality opposition, namely Felix Auger-Aliassime and Jannik Sinner who he beat in the final of the Rotterdam Open. Since then, he has advanced to the semi-final in Doha and looks to be playing near his best once again.
As mentioned, Medvedev can suddenly drop in form and lose a match without warning, so he can be easily overlooked by punters betting on outright winners, but now he has gained some momentum and beaten some good opponents, it is certain that he will have some confidence and belief that he can win a second tournament of 2023.
Reigning champion Andrey Rublev will feel that he can defend his title after an impressive Australian Open that saw him advance to the quarter-finals. Unfortunately for Rublev, it was there that he met Novak Djokovic, who steamrolled him three-nil before lifting the trophy two matches later.
Not a single player on the tour can feel ashamed after losing to Djokovic, and Rublev is no exception, but he won’t feel great about his recent form that has seen him lose two of the three matches he has played since the Australian Open.
Though he hasn’t hit prime form since losing to Djokovic in Melbourne, returning to the scene of a previous victory will surely give him a spike and may even kick him into winning gear. He was won here before and played a fantastic Australian Open before his loss, defeating fellow top ten player Holger Rune as well as Dominic Thiem in straight sets.
He hasn’t had the best preparation, but Rublev will be one to monitor in Dubai and certainly one to back in the early rounds… unless he is drawn against Djokovic.